“The hardest choices require the strongest will.”
“I think you’ll find our will equal to yours!”
―Thanos and Doctor Strange, Avengers: Infinity War
Claire recounts her reason for challenging a Kanata whose heart and mind is fully back in beach volleyball: after they’d lost previously, Claire and Emily befriended Kanata and Narumi, training frequently together. However, when Kanata’s resolve faltered, Claire’s drive to beat Kanata on even footing faded away. Back in the present, Kanata is playing for keeps, and together with Haruka, manages to win the second set, bringing the game to a draw. The final set is a first-to-fifteen, and Kanata decides that they might be able to use the wind direction in their favour. Winning the coin toss, Haruka and Kanata take to the upwind side of the court, where Haruka manages to surprise Claire and Emily with top spins in her serves and spikes. However, Claire and Emily catch on and turn the game around. Fatigue begins setting in, and when Haruka smashes the ball into the net, Claire and Emily come within one point of winning. Even at the brink of loss, Kanata remains collected: she’s realised that Claire and Emily are likely also at their limits, and with this knowledge, she and Haruka score twice, bringing the game to a draw. In its penultimate episode, Harukana Receive shows that moments in beach volleyball can be made to fill the length of a full episode and, despite the focus on one match, can nonetheless hold enough emotional intensity to keep viewers focused throughout the entire episode: it is clear that while they might be friends, Claire and Emily have their own reasons for wanting to come out victorious, and so, with a single point deciding the outcome of their match, it now boils down to whichever team has the strongest will to do what is necessary to win, and what is driving this will.
With only a single episode remaining, Harukana Receive has been simultaneously a pleasant surprise and conventional throughout its run; conventional in its portrayal of friendship, sportsmanship and life lessons, Harukana Receive surprises in how it is able to present beach volleyball in an engaging manner, showing the milestones in Haruka and Kanata’s journey in beach volleyball. It is the case that Harukana Receive is very inconsistent in its progression, but having considered that Kanata and Haruka begin playing in a clumsy manner and advance to playing smartly, and how the anime’s depictions of this are deliberate to reinforce this notion, it is conceivable that the inconsistencies in the passage of time are also intentional; Harukana Receive elects not to show all of the path the pair take towards reaching their promise, but instead, chooses to highlight the more pivotal moments in the girls’ journey towards reaching the nationals. The rough spots in Harukana Receive, then, are intended to mirror life itself: it is rarely a straight shot from a starting point to a destination. Sometimes, things occur sequentially and in a manageable manner, while other times, things can threaten to become overwhelming. Aspirations change, become lost and rediscovered. This is the tumultuous nature of life, and while perhaps confusing from a narrative perspective, Harukana Receive utilises it to show that the slower moments in life can be as critical as the higher-paced ones in shaping individuals: something like a day spent shopping for swimsuits or introducing a younger student to a club is counted as meritorious of exploration to the same extent as a tense showdown between Éclaire and Harukana.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Readers are forgiven if they imagined that this post for Harukana Receive was the same post as last week’s; I do feature many screenshots that are quite similar in composition and colour, after all. As the second set progresses, Harukana put on an impressive showing. The episode opens with a flashback, although I am not particularly keen on showing these again because I’ve already used the screenshots elsewhere.
- Both Éclaire and Harukana are dead set on winning and make their intentions clearly known to their opponents. This determination, a battle of wills, is what prompted me to select the page quote, which is sourced from an exchange between Thanos and Steven Strange on Titan. At this point, I also admit that because Harukana Receive is very easy to predict with respect to plot progression, I’ve been able to determine which quote to use for the upcoming episode, and here, I will note that for the finale, I will be drawing a line from Captain America: Civil War.
- Claire’s competitive nature means that when met with fierce resistance from Harukana, she begins to lose her cool. In practise, doing something while riled usually results in a loss of concentration, further decreasing performance and increasing frustration in a positive feedback loop. I know this feeling well; of late, frustrations with work has caused me to see a decline in efficiency and precision. I am making more typos and clicking on the wrong thing while working, and the slowdown is absolutely infuriating.
- As soon as this assignment is over, and I wrap up a few things on my end, I think I will see about taking a few days off to recharge and regroup, which is what is recommended when performance starts taking a hit. This experience has definitely been challenging and exasperating, but like all experiences before it, has also been very instructive: I feel as though I’ve aged a year in the past month alone. Back in Harukana Receive, Haruka and Kanata celebrate after winning their set.
- Marissa watches her daughters taking on Harukana in a live-streamed match on her iPad with a glass of wine. The time zone difference suggests that she’s back in America: Okinawa is fifteen hours ahead of Mountain Time while daylight savings is active, and given the hour, it would make sense that Marissa is living in either the Mountain or Pacific time zones, with the Pacific being more likely, as California has access to some stunning beaches. Having said this, I cannot readily identify where from California Marissa is presently in just by looking at the houses in this scene; Harukana Receive has been very faithful in depicting its locations, but I would imagine that generic suburbia is used here.
- Narumi and Ayasa’s presence in Harukana Receive was reduced after their first rematch against Haruka and Kanata; eleven episodes and what looks to be a year later, it would appear that they still owe Kanata and Haruka an ice cream. Here, they train for their own shot at the Valkyrie Cup, and express concern for Haruka and Kanata. Deciding to go another round, they feel its best to wait for news from Haruka on the outcome of their match.
- Because Haruka and Kanata played Narumi and Ayasa in a non-competitive environment, the match between them and Éclaire is likely to be the toughest match they play in the whole of Harukana Receive. Here, Kanata tries to invigorate Haruka: while no direct explanation is given, this gesture, the same one Claire made earlier during the match against Ai and Mai, is likely meant to signify a “let’s do this” outlook.
- The final set is first-to-fifteen match, and on the coin toss, Harukana come out ahead. Rather than taking the first serve, Kanata chooses to pick the side of the court they start on. With Harukana Receive very nearly over, Haruka and Kanata’s respective heights never really seemed to have been much of a concern to the extent that it really impeded them, and it turns out that initial guesses, that Kanata would come to find her own way to play beach volleyball effectively, indeed came to pass.
- Kanata’s understanding of environment factors and their ability to influence play is reminiscent of the romanticised version of Chinese politician and military strategist, Zhuge Liang, who is to have credited to be able to predict the weather from natural patterns in Red Cliff. Using his knowledge, he was able capitalise on foggy conditions in order to deceive Cao Cao’s army, covering his sailing a fleet of boats covered in straw men and goading them into firing, providing his army with a hundred thousand arrows. Later, Zhuge determined that south-eastern winds would be conducive towards using fire to torch Cao Cao’s navy. While Kanata’s understanding of the weather is not used to quite the same scale, it is nonetheless effective, allowing Harukana an early lead and bolstering their focus.
- Haruka is quickly able to get the hang of top spins and early on, uses them to give her and Kanata a three-nothing lead. However, Claire and Emily are experienced, and so, manage to close the gap before taking the lead for themselves. Against Haruka and Kanata, Emily and Claire are forced to bring out their best techniques: the match is exhausting on both the body and mind, but Claire remarks later that this is a match she’d wished could’ve gone on for longer.
- I’m with Claire in that facing off against one’s equals is perhaps the most engaging experiences there are. Dealing with easy things are no fun, but neither is getting one’s face kicked in by things well above their capabilities. Having said this, life is not fair, and people often end up dealing with situations that go over their head. It is with a strong resolve, faith in one’s existing knowledge and occasionally, seeking help, that allows one to really grow.
- Insofar, Harukana Receive is eleven for eleven in depicting beautiful weather: every episode, from the first to the present, has showcased Okinawa with beautiful blue skies and inviting sunshine. Meanwhile, the march of the seasons in reality is more unkind. The warm summer days have given in to cold, overcast days, and autumn is not even upon us yet. Despite this, a clear centimetre of snow fell in my area, and I am made to bring out my toque and gloves again.
- Harukana Receive goes out of its way to convey fatigue: as the third set continues, both teams begin making more mistakes in their play. From her comparatively lesser experience, Haruka is hit particularly hard, and she slips in several plays that allow Éclaire to gain a lead that slowly widens.
- For the viewers’ benefit, Mai and Ai explain some of the things they’re seeing on the court, and while Akari’s doing her best to support everyone, the shifting mood on the court is becoming quite tangible, leading her to worry for her friends, as well. From the audience’s perspective, it is impressive that Harukana has lasted as long as they did against Éclaire, speaking volumes to their remarkable progression.
- I understand that with twenty screenshots, I am invariably giving up other moments (and their corresponding conversation topics) whenever I feature fanservice close-ups such as these. The point of such screenshots is really to reiterate to readers that I am very much a fan of Haruka, and, were I to be in a gaming mood, perhaps crack a few bad jokes in my usual manner.
- A glance at my posting patterns this month shows that this is only my third post. Having been firing on all four cylinders almost non-stop since the beginning of August, I have become quite tired, and so, have not felt the inclination to write for anything else. With this being said, Harukana Receive has remained sufficiently engaging for me to find something to say for each episode, and considering my circumstances, I think it is noteworthy that each episode of Harukana Receive has offered something unique and interesting.
- Throughout Harukana Receive‘s entire run, Haruka has always exhibited a happy-go-lucky, go-getter mindset. Very few things seem to weigh down on her mind, and I wondered if there would come a point where Haruka’s outlook would be tested. While only a minor moment, it turns out that Haruka’s main concern isn’t about being beaten, but rather, letting people around her down. She sheds a tear while apologising to Kanata for having made the mistake that brings them to within a point of defeat.
- Kanata is quite unconcerned, and reassures Haruka. When the set resumes, she and Haruka manage to even up the scores, counting on exhaustion to slow Claire and Emily down. Both Emily and Claire have been putting in a considerable amount of effort, counting on their skill and power to overwhelm Haruka and Kanata, but Kanata has evidently picked up on things, and paced herself accordingly. With the ball literally in her court now (this, by the way, is a correct usage of “literally”), Kanata takes control. Her lighter, smaller frame has an advantage here, allowing her to remain swift on her feet where her opponents begin feeling slowed.
- Writing for Harukana Receive has not been a cakewalk, and I was aware of this coming into the series, since it would be about beach volleyball (something I’m not familiar with), but an additional challenge was introduced with work-related matters, which saw me boarding planes and flying all over the place. I was thus fighting exhaustion for the past few weeks while writing some of my episodic reviews for this series. As a result, of the episodic reviews I’ve done, Harukana Receive has easily been the most mentally-taxing.
- With only a single point deciding the outcome of this match, and who will go onto the nationals, the tension in Harukana Receive reaches an all-time high ahead of the finale next week. My prediction is that Harukana will win shortly into the finale, and the remainder of it will be the dénouement as the girls shake hands and continue moving ahead in pursuit of their goals. I’ve traditionally done an extra paragraph and ten additional screenshots for finales: Harukana Receive‘s will be no different, as I will use the additional space to cover series-wide thematic elements and overall impressions of this series.
The outcome to this contest of wills is to be settled in the next episode, and as anticipated, even if the outcome is clear, the path taken to reach that outcome has been a thrilling one. Subtle details, from the small grunts the girls make from each receive and return, to shifts in their facial expressions during the match, show that everyone is playing for keeps for their own reasons. The series has proven to be quite a riveting one, and despite slower moments here and there, like life itself, Harukana Receive picks up and slows down to show that both elements are present in life. To depict the series in this manner augments the sense of realism, and entering the last episode, I find myself impressed that what was prima facie a paper-thin justification to eye Haruka ended up being a very clever presentation on the ups and downs, slower and faster moments in life that might feel disjointed or out of place when considered discretely, but in conjunction, come together to give a very specific message on living and discovery. It is a bit surprising that Harukana Receive has reached its eleventh, second-to-last episode so quickly; we are in the middle of September now, and are rapidly closing in on the conclusion of the summer anime season. For the present, one more episode to Harukana Receive remains, and I look forwards to seeing how this series wraps things up following the intense, close match between Éclaire and Harukana.